Orlando, Florida

Sometime in the summer of 2011, I decided to buy a year round season pass to Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Both are theme parks, both adjacent to one another.

The first thing I remember was the pass wasn’t cheap. Theme park passes usually aren’t inexpensive, but what the hell did I know. I remember my grandfather decided to pitch in financially so I could buy the season pass ticket. I believe it was an early birthday present, him helping pay for the pass.

I went a total of two times. Not because I was lazy. Not because I refused to make the hour and a half drive to Orlando from Tampa. No…I got caught up in some trouble with the law. I guess it’s not kosher or legal to discharge a twelve gauge shotgun twice within a dwelling.

Before I went to jail, then rehab, then moved back to Arizona, I can still remember what made those two adventures worth remembering.

My grandfather went with me. He didn’t have a season pass. He didn’t need one. Before we left he packed lunches for us, along with some bottled water to wash down the food. He also brought with him a book to read while I was riding rides within the theme parks.

Even at the time I thought that was pretty cool. My grandfather acted as a point of safety for me. If anything went wrong, he was ready to drive back to Tampa with me. Not too many family members would do that. He went above and beyond for me. I had someone to chat with on the ride home. Someone to talk to about the great American novels I was reading that summer, good old American Realism.

I also remember seeing, In Thirty Minutes or Less. The path leading up to the amusement parks is essentially a boardwalk of shops, and, a movie theater. That was the last movie I saw before my life changed. I dunno why but the stakes in that movie were intense. Maybe it was my mental state- I was in a dark place in my thoughts. I did feel the world was caving in on me. Plus I missed my best guy friends from my home state of Arizona. I was out of place in Florida. In Thirty Minutes or Less was a reminder of the friends I didn’t get to see every weekend, hadn’t for two years by that point.

I know my grandparents saw this occurring to me. Hell I even told them and my parents as much, that I was slowly deteriorating into a heap of worthlessness. I should mention a friend died about two months prior to me getting the season pass. She was on her way to visit me at my place in Saint Petersburg. She was driving down from Nashville, Tennessee. She was drinking beer and driving. It was a long drive- too much time to get wasted behind the wheel. She fell asleep. Her vehicle veered to the right. She was going over sixty miles per hour. She hit the medium, that barrier dividing the off ramp from the freeway. She wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. She was launched from the driver seat. She was found dead when the paramedics arrived. I remember waking up the next morning to a phone call from my ex-girlfriend. She and the woman who died had been friends for a long time, in fact, that’s how I became friends with this woman. She was crying, saying Merian had died earlier that morning.

I was lost after she passed away. I began drinking copious amounts of hard liquor, whiskey, mixed with coca cola. I eventually got a script for valium. Started drinking and popping pills. Thus, I fired off my shotgun twice in my home. My grandfather was present during that incident. He even bashed my left arm with a hammer to try to stop me from grabbing my shotgun.

Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios were the last good memories I have from my days in Florida. And the movie, In Thirty Minutes or Less. The rest of my decline before going to jail was miserable. The semester started off wrong due to my inability to stop drinking before classes. I gave up, essentially. A young woman I’ll refer to as M. tried to help pull me from my own abyss. She gave up once she realized her help was meaningless. That was the final straw. Once she broke things off with me, it wasn’t much longer in time before my most extreme situation played out in reality.

I remember saying to my therapist that alcohol was my only friend. He referred to alcohol as the “shit monster” I had to get rid of. He was right. In fact, before the incident, he’d found out I had purchased and owned a shotgun. I remember him telling me that was a horrible idea, that I need get rid of the firearm before something disastrous went down. Again, he was right- he was spot on in his advice.

This is why I no longer espouse my second amendment rights. I have a pocket knife, and that’s it. That’s all I really need anyway. At my height and weight, I’m enough of a weapon unto myself that a firearm is unnecessary at this point in my life. As a civilian, a free citizen of the United States, it’d be the dumbest thing, me purchasing a firearm.

I’ll always remember those visits to Orlando Studios with my Grampy. Grampy and me, having some fun. Him reading, me going on rides. Then the car ride back, and the chats we had. My Grampy is now eighty four years old. He’ll be eighty five this October. Those days have long since past. I don’t even see him in person anymore. He’s so tired and beat out that he has little to no time to shoot the breeze. He has no time to chat like we used to. I’ll forever miss the chats I had with my Grampy. He was in many ways, not only my Grandfather, he was also my best friend. We were like Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, I Frodo and he Samwise.

He still thinks of me as his Samwise before my Grammy, his wife of fifty-seven years, passed away. During those last three years I helped my Grampy in every way I could. I made sure I was there to help him relax, before having to be caretaker to his dying wife. That was back in 2013-2015. Those were the last couple of years we had great conversations. About stories, and politics. The human condition, what it means to be a decent person.

I guess I just miss talking to someone like that. Although I’ve been meeting more people lately. I also reconnected with an old friend from my college days at GCU. So, one door closes, and eventually, another door opens.


Philip Dietrich Webb

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: